Blackjack is a game with a language all its own. If you find yourself unsure of some of the terms or blackjack lingo commonly used in the game, we recommend going over the complete list. More than just a blackjack dictionary, this is the fastest way to get a basic understanding of the language used by blackjack players. Unlike other online gambling definitions this glossary is a definitive blackjack guide including over 135 of blackjack’s most important and frequently-used player’s vocabulary.
A-J Bonus – An increasingly popular blackjack game variant that offers a payout bonus for both the ace and jack of spades.
Ace Adjustment – Revising a players bet based on the current number of aces in a deck.
Ace side count – The number, or count, of how many aces have already been played. This is also called the ace count, however it is considered a side count because it is different than the main count.
Ace Neutral Count A counting system that does not take into consideration ace cards, e.g. the value of an ace in this system is 0.
Ace rich – A deck that contains more aces than is statistically probable is called, Ace Rich. The opposite can also be referred to as Ace Poor.
Action – The term action can be used in three ways, however two refer to the amount of money that has been wagered. The first and most common use is the bet placed on a particular play or it can mean the total sum played over a period of time. The third meaning is simply that a game is in progress.
Advantage – This refers to the statistics present in the game of blackjack. It is generally given that the house or casino has a statistical edge or advantage over a player, however card counting and other advanced techniques can switch this percentage into the players favor giving them the advantage.
Anchor-Anchorman – Also known as the ‘third base’ this is the seat farthest away from the dealer who receives his or her hand last. This can be especially difficult for new players and this seat has the potential to hit or stand in a way that confuses or complicates the players proceeding. This may appear to give the dealer an advantage, however this is also the preferred position for card counters.
Back Counting – When not actually playing, an observer can count cards from behind the table. This is called Back Counting.
Balanced Count – A card counting system that has a balanced, or equal number of cards that are positive or negative so that the total deck is valued at 0 or null.
Bankroll (BR) – This is the amount of money that a player has available to gamble with. Generally it refers to the total playing sum but can also be used to mean the amount of money bet on a single game.
Bar – When a player is banned or refused from a casino or table. This is most frequently used by casinos against Blackjack card counters.
Barber Pole – A bet consisting of more than one colored chips. Dealers are usually required to ensure that the lowest value chips are on top to ensure that the correct amount wagered is well understood. This means that the chips should line up according to color, or value and this is how the term came into use.
Basic Strategy (BS) – The most optimal strategy for playing blackjack that does not include card counting. It may also be referred to as the zero memory strategy. Instead of card counting this utilizes the total of players hand and the dealers up card. A successful Basic Strategy minimizes the casino advantage to between 1.5% – 0.5%
‘Beat the Dealer’ – The ground breaking blackjack book written by Edward Thorp that proved that the advantage in Blackjack could be converted from the casino to the player using a strategy called card counting.
Bet Spread – The highest and lowest wagers that a player has made in a game. For example: a 2-5 bet spread means that the player has bet a minimum of 2 units and a maximum of 5 units per hand played.
Betting Correlation (BC) – A term used to describe the efficiency or accuracy of any card counting technique. It is intended to inform the player when to increase or decrease a bet. Usually expressed as a decimal number a .97 count would mean that the betting correlation is correct 97% of the time.
Betting Efficiency (BE) – The betting efficiency calculates how much a card counting system can switch the available statistical advantage to the player when using a fixed strategy. This means the calculating the best time to raise a players bets related to the true count. This was first calculated and published by Peter Griffin in his landmark, ‘The Theory of Blackjack: The Complete Card Counter’s Guide to the Game of 21.’ The scale in use ranges from 0.0 to 1.0, where 1.0 is the best.
Big Player (BP) – A leader of a blackjack team that places a bet when the card count has become favorable. Generally this is achieved when a team of card counters are all at different tables. When a count becomes extremely favorable the counter who has placed only small, unnoticeable bets secretly signals to the Big Player who then places a ‘lucky’ large bet and continues to do so until the count becomes neutral or negative. This was a concept created by Al Francesco and popularized through Ken Uston’s bestseller, ‘The Big Player.’
Black Chip – A $100 chip.
Break – Also called ‘Bust’ a break happens when the total count exceeds 21 and the game becomes an automatic loss.
Burn card – The first card of a new deck after being shuffled is discarded to the bottom of the deck and referred to as ‘the burn card.’
Cage – The location of the Casino cashier where chips can be purchased or cashed in. Usually surrounded by bars and other security measures it can resemble a bank.
Camouflage – And tactic used to conceal the act of card counting. This can range from facial expressions, body language and conversation to more elaborate strategies using other players and more.
Canfield Expert – A 1 level balanced card counting strategy designed for the greatest Playing Efficiency (PE). Published in Richard Canfield’s, Blackjack Your Way to Riches.
Card Counting – A successful strategy for turning the 2% or more house advantage over to the player by tracking the high and low count cards that have already been played. There are several different types of card counting strategies with varying degrees of accuracy and computational difficulty. The essential strategy is to bet high when the count is in your favor (positive) and low when the count is negative.
Card Sharp – A cards expert. During the wild west both professional card players and swindlers were referred to as card sharps and thus the term had a negative connotation. In recent decades it has taken on a more respectable air with modern card maestros who can legally and ethically display their skills. This term is used generally for all cards games but has been often used to refer to expert or professional blackjack players.
Catch Up Bets – (also called betting the gap) when a tournament player falls behind the leader he may choose to make a large bet that if successful will put him in the same position or higher than the current leader. This is dangerous because if the hand doesn’t work in your favor you are more likely to be eliminated.
Charlie – (5, 6 or 7 card) Also called a 5 card Charlie, a 6 card Charlie or a 7 card Charlie. When the player’s hand totals 21 or less with 5, 6 or 7 cards. Some casinos give special bonuses for Charlie hands.
Checks – An alternative term for Chips, usually by British or non-US casinos. Checks are used by casinos for several reasons. First they are easier to keep track of than other forms of money and also allow all exchange issues to be taken care of before playing. They inform pit bosses of the approximate bankroll a player is using as well as provide a psychological advantage where players don’t view the abstract chips or checks as real money and are then willing to place more bets of higher denominations.
Cold – A deck that has a bad or unfavorable ratio for the player.
Color Up – When lower value chips are turned in for higher value chips. Generally this is done at the end of a session when a player may have many low denomination chips that he or she would like to exchange for easily portable high value chips in smaller amounts.
Comp – Free food, beverages, hotel accommodations, travel or any other perks offered to players designed to encourage them to play more. These are given after an individual has actually played. Any enticements made before then are referred to as coupons.
Counter – A person or machine capable of counting cards.
Counting System – A system in which cards are assigned values. the more values in the system, the more ‘levels’ it is said to have. There are single and multi-parameter systems, such as the High-Low count and the Zen count.
Cut – When a deck is divided into two parts after the dealer has shuffled the deck. Sometimes done by the player before being handed back to the dealer, using a cut card made of a solid color plastic. After being divided the cards are then reversed front to back.
D’alembert – An unproven money management system where a player raises the bet one unit after a win and lowers it one unit after a loss. While it has many possible variations it cannot win in any game with a negative expectation.
DA/DA2 – The abbreviation used on Double Down or Double Down after any first 2 cards.
DAS – The popular abbreviation for the term that allows a player to “Double (down) After a Split.”
Deal – The term given to the distribution of cards to the players during a game.
Dealing Seconds – This is a method that dealers can use to cheat players. For example if the top card is to the players advantage, the dealer chooses to deal the second card in the deck instead. Using a shoe makes this virtually impossible.
Deck Penetration – The percentage of cards played out of a deck or shoe before being reshuffled.
Device – A computer or any other non-human instrument used to calculate or take notes while in a blackjack game. In certain places a casino may use such a device, while players cannot. The exact definition and legality of what a device is remains largely undefined, particularly outside of the United States.
Discards – Discard Tray – Cards that have already been played and discarded. In some casinos a discard tray is used to make the status of a card more obvious.
Double Only Any Two Cards (DOA) – Liberal casino rules that allow for doubling on any 2 playing cards.
Double Deck – Blackjack played out of two decks shuffled together.
Double Down – Refers to doubling the initial bet after the first card has been dealt and the player has accepted an additional card before standing or not accepting another card. Most casinos have their own rules regarding when players can and can’t double down and this varies widely. For instance, some casinos allow a double down after the first two cards are dealt, or after splitting and others only allow it if the total on the first two cards is 10 or 11.
Double Exposure – A less popular blackjack variant that is played with the dealers hand face up. This is compensated for by players losing pushes and the payout being even money.
Draw – The same as the term ‘Hit.’ This means accepting additional cards in order to try to get closer to a total of 21.
Early Surrender (ES) – When a player decides to leave a game after only two cards have been dealt or before a dealer can check the hole card for an ace. This results in the player losing 50% of his or her wager.
Edge – The advantage that the casino or player has as expressed as a numerical statistic. For example: the average blackjack advantage is in the casino’s favor at 2% but may be higher.
End Play – An out-of-date style of advantage play using a single deck, generally pre-Thorp, where a player attempts to take advantage of his knowledge of the remaining unplayed cards. Casinos can thwart this method by cutting off some of the cards at the end of the deck or shoe.
Even Money – When a bet can result in winning the same amount as the bet itself. For example: a $50 bet returns a $50 reward.
Expectation – The statistical amount that a player expects to win or lose referred to as a percentage value.
Expected Value – Almost identical to the term expectation, players who use the modified term expected value usually also include the exact percentage figure as well.
Face Card – Queen, King and Jacks. Each are worth 10 points.
False Shuffle – A dealer cheating method that doesn’t randomly redistribute the cards.
First Base – The player sitting at a table who receives his cards first.
Five-Card Charlie – A blackjack hand consisting of 5 cards with a value of 21 or less. See “Charlie” definition above.
Flat Betting – When a player bets the same amount of money for every hand without variation.
Fluctuations – The difference between what a player expects and the reality of the amount in a players bankroll.
Free Hit – When a tournament player has a bad hand and taking another card cannot do further damage to the hand but can potentially save it. It does not cost the player any more than standing. A hard 17 is a good example of when a free hit may be a good next move.
Green Chip – A $ 25 dollar chip.
Griffin – Peter Griffin is the well known author of, ‘The Theory of Blackjack: The Complete Card Counter’s Guide to the Game of 21’ and member of the Blackjack Hall of Fame due to his outstanding contributions to card counting and other blackjack strategies.
Griffin Book – A reference book of suspected card counters or cheaters, often with photos and biographical details provided to casinos by the Griffin Investigators.
Griffin Investigations – A private investigations firm specializing in suspected casino cheaters. Once a world wide resource for casinos to bar both cheaters as well as expert players, the agency officially was forced to close in 2005 after being bankrupt by a successful lawsuit by James Grosjean and Michael Russo.
H17 – The abbreviation for the rules of a blackjack game that require the dealer to hit a soft 17.
Hard Hand – And hand without an ace or where the ace must be counted at 1 to avoid busting or going over 21. Hard hands can only be counted as having a single value, unlike a soft card that can be counted in more than one way.
Hard Total – The total value of a hard hand.
Heads Up – Playing alone against a dealer.
Heat – The tactics used by a casino to prevent players from using card counting strategies.
Hi-Lo Count – Also called the High-Low count and plus-minus count. One of the most basic and earliest card counting systems where 2-6 counts as +1 and faces and aces are counted as -1.
Hi-Opt I – Also called the Einstein count. Developed by Julian Braun and Lance humble and published in Humble’s, ‘The World’s Greatest Blackjack Book.’ The Hi-Opt I card counting system has 3-6 as +1 with 10’s and face cards as -1.
Hi-Opt II – Similar to the Hi-Opt I system but with a 2 level balanced count. 2, 7, 8, 9 and ace cards are counted as 0, 3-6 cards are +1 and 10 value cards are counted as -1.
High Roller – A player who makes large bets. And is assumed to have a large bankroll.
Hit – To take an extra card.
Hole Card – The dealers first dealt hand placed face down. It is generally recommended that players assume that it is has a value of 10.
Hot Deck – A deck where the player has the advantage.
Index Number – The term given by card counters to identify the count associated with a specific strategy variations.
Insurance – Insurance is the term given to a side bet when a player suspects that the dealer has a blackjack. The most that the player can bet on this is half of the original wager. If you win, the player wins the insurance bet but loses the original bet. If the dealer does not have a blackjack the player loses the insurance bet and the game resumes. In general an insurance bet is in the houses favor by a significant percentage with the exception that the player is an accurate card counter.
Joker – At some casinos there is a game variation where a joker is inserted into the deck as a bonus card so that when played it can be used as having ‘any value.’
Kelly Betting – The percentage of your bankroll wagered that corresponds to the players advantage percentage. This is considered the optimal betting ratio.
Knock-Out (KO) Count – As popularized in the book, ‘Knock-Out Blackjack,’ by Ken Fuchs and Olaf Vancurra, the knock-out or KO count is an unbalanced card counting method. The cards 2-7 are considered +1 while face cards and 10 point cards are considered -1.
Labouchere – A money management system, more accurately described as a betting progression that is known to be unsound. Also called the cancellation system it involves choosing two or more numbers that total the amount of money the gambler would like to win and modifying the bets based on adding and subtracting amounts won or lost to the original numbers.
Las Vegas Strip Rules – The most common rules used on the Las Vegas Strip casinos. These are generally in the casino’s favor with more decks in play and certain restrictions. In Blackjack it means that dealers stand on all 17’s, doubling is allowed after the first two cards are dealt and no doubling after splitting.
Late Surrender – The option that a player can leave the game after seeing the dealers hole card. If allowed the player forfeits 50% of his bet or if the dealer has a blackjack, the entire sum.
Level – The number of values in a given card counting system. The most basic systems have one level for + or – 1, while a two level system has +1, +2, -1, -2 and every additional level adds a new layer of complexity that makes it progressively harder to compute.
Martingale – One of the first money management systems it requires players to double their bets after each loss, assuming that it will be made up by the next win. While this is not correct it has also come to mean any increase after a losing bet.
Money Management – Is the system used by players to control their bankroll. Several systems have been introduced to the public, however few are reliable. The most respectable system is the Kelly betting system.
Money Plays – When a casino allows a player or players to wager with cash instead of chips.
Mulligan – When a casino offers a player the chance to “buy back” the last card played, even if it busted the hand. This is seen at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Multiple Deck – Using more than one deck at a time to play Blackjack. This is a popular technique employed by casinos to throw off card counters to increase the complexity of the game. Blackjack is played with up to 8 decks. With the exception of a single deck game only even numbers of decks are used such as: 2, 4, 6 and 8.
Natural – Synonym for a Blackjack or 21 card count this happens when an ace and 10 value card are the first two cards dealt.
Nickel – A $5 dollar chip, also called a red chip.
No Hole Card – European No Hole Card – A blackjack variation, popular in Europe, where the dealer does not take a hole card and only gets a second card after all player hands are completed. If the dealer then gets a blackjack the player who has doubled down or split loses all bets, including the original.
Omega II – An advanced 2 level balanced card counting system. Described in Bryce Carlson’s Blackjack for Blood.
Paint – A face card, i.e. a King, Queen or Jack of Spades.
Past Post – A player cheating method where the bet amount is illegally increased after the player has seen his hand.
Pat Hand – When a hand is at 17 or higher. Players are never recommended to hit a pat hand for the strong likelihood of going bust.
Penetration – How deeply (the number of cards played) before being reshuffled by the dealer or shoe.
Pink Chip – A chip with a value of $2.50
Pit – The area in a casino that is made up of card playing tables.
Pit Boss – Is the casino employee responsible for oversight in the pit watching over all the dealers, players and games.
Playing Conditions – The exact rules in use at a given casino. Because there are many possible game variations and casinos can rule out certain tactics, such as a double down, unless particular conditions are met.
Playing for the Swing – When a tournament player attempts to play his cards and make his bet in order to move ahead of another player with the hope that the dealers’ standing will be somewhere in between.
Plug – When cards that have not yet been played are placed in the stack of discards before shuffling.
Plus / Minus – A common reference name for the HI-LOW counting system.
Point Count – The current point count of a deck in card counting, regardless if it is positive or negative.
Preferential Shuffling – Shuffling cards early or more often in order to discourage card counting.
Pumpkin – An orange, over sized chip generally denoting a $1,000 value but other equally large values maybe used.
Purple Chip – A $500 chip
Rainbow Bet – A bet consisting of several different colored chips, in a single stack generally intended to confuse the exact amount of the bet.
Rat Holing – Placing chips out of the sight of the dealer or pit boss so that the casino does not see the amount of a players winnings.
Rated – Rating can be both positive and negative. In cases where a player has lost while playing they can be rated in order for the casino to determine the comps that they should receive. Professional players are rated and it is a well known fact that card counters go out of their way to avoid being rated.
RC – Also known as the Running Count. This is the same as the point count where the total count regardless of being positive or negative is totalled.
Red Chip – A $5 chip.
Red Seven – A 1 level unbalanced card counting system optimized for a player’s betting strategy found in Arnold Snyder’s, Blackbelt in Blackjack.
Resplit – Generally not allowed, re-splitting is when two pairs are dealt after the initial first card dealt and the player decides to split that pair.
Resplit Aces – When a casino allows a player to re-split a pair of aces indefinitely. In general casinos have rules limiting how many times you can do this.
Revere Point Count – A balanced 2 level card counting method used for betting strategy. Created by Lawrence Revere the author of, Playing Blackjack as a Business.
Rider Bet – When another player bets on a hand. This wager is placed just behind the original players wager.
Risk of Ruin – The mathematical probability that a player’s entire bankroll will be lost.
S17 – The acronym that requires a dealer to stand on all soft 17’s.
SD – Can have two meanings: a Single Deck or a Standard Deviation
Session – The amount of time that a player has spent gambling.
Shill – A casino employee paid to sit at the tables in order to entice potential players to sit down and wager.
Shiner – An illegal cheating device used by players to get a look at the dealers hole card.
Shoe – Holding up to 8 decks at a time a shoe is a shuffling machine that resembles a shoe box and is very efficient for dealing one card off the top at a time. Generally made of wood or transparent plastic they are most often seen in 2, 4 and 6 deck versions.
Shoe Game – A blackjack game where the cards are shuffled and dealt by a machine, or shoe rather than a human dealer. Generally these are large multi-deck games as single deck games are shuffled and dealt by hand.
Shuffle Master – Is the name of a company that produces card shuffling machines. These make card counting difficult or impossible because the deck is shuffled after every hand.
Shuffle Up – Also called preferential shuffling, this is early or more frequent shuffling by a dealer to discourage card counting.
Shuffle Tracking – A technique usually employed by professional blackjack players to give them an advantage over the house by keeping track of the high count cards in a deck before breaking a deck so that a dealer will play these high value cards.
Side Count – An additional count kept in addition to the total points count. The most common example of a side count are the aces in a deck.
Silver Fox – A balanced 1 level card counting system designed to optimized the players betting strategy. Published in The Silver Fox Blackjack System by Ralph Stricker.
Soft Hand – When a hand contains an ace that can be counted ether as 1 or 11 without the total value being considered bust. This is in contrast to a hard hand that does not contain an ace and can therefore only have one fixed value.
Splitting Pairs – If a player is dealt two identical cards he can split them up and play them as two separate hands. Players can then have two separate bets and the rules of the game are repeated for each hand.
Soft Double – Double Down using a soft hand.
Splitting Aces – Generally not allowed by casinos, splitting aces is the same as splitting other paired cards, except that the likelihood of a blackjack is higher. After splitting the aces, you receive only one card per ace and if another ace is dealt, those can again be split in a process called, re-splitting aces.
Spooking – An illegal cheating technique where a non player views the dealers hole card and signals this information to a player.
Stand or Stay – When a player refuses an additional card.
Standard Deviation – The difference, expressed as a mathematical percentage, in the expected statistical deviation. For example the standard deviation in a casino blackjack game with a non-card counting player is 2%.
Steaming – When player’s hand fails and instead of loss or surrender the player becomes aggressive in either tactics or and begins to over bet in order to attempt to recoup the losses.
Stiff Hand – Hard hands that have a total point value of 12-16. If a player draws a stiff hand a bust is likely.
Stop Loss – A money management system where a player determines the upper limit of money they are willing to lose. Once that amount has been lost, the player stops that session.
Strip Rules – Also known as Las Vegas Strip Rules. The most common rules used on the Las Vegas Strip casinos. These are generally in the casino’s favor with more decks in play and various restrictions.
Suited Blackjack – A blackjack hand made up of an Ace and a 10 value card of the same suit: both clubs, both spades, both diamonds or both hearts.
Team Play – Is a form of advantage play where a group of card counters work together, often using a single bankroll to maximize the (team) players advantage. This concept was created by Al Francesco and popularized in Ken Uston’s book ‘The Big Player.’
Tell Play – Playing blackjack based on the reading of a dealer’s facial expressions or body language.
Third Baseman – The player who receives his cards from the dealer last. If standing behind the active players, the third baseman is the person seated farthest to the left. This player is the last to act before the dealer and may be the most scrutinized if they make a mistake making this a less desirable position for novice players.
Thorp – Edward Thorp. Blackjack author and pioneer best known for his contributions to card counting through his book ‘Beat the Dealer’.
Toke – A tip or gratuity given to a dealer or any other casino employee.
Up Card – The first card played by the dealer is placed face up.
Unit – The amount of a bet. This may be calculated in several ways as there may be different chip values or other financial variations.
Unbalanced Count – In certain card counting systems the total points value for a deck may not be neutral. If it is either positive or negative the deck is said to have an unbalanced count.
Uston Advanced Plus-Minus – A single level balanced card counting system described in Ken Uston’s, Million Dollar Blackjack.
Variance – The difference in the expected advantage variable, usually expressed as a statistic, and the actual results.
Wong Halves – An advanced 3 level card counting strategy invented by Stanford Wong in the 1970’s.
Win Rate – The amount that a player wins per hour.
Whale – A high roller of the highest caliber. A ‘whale’ is a term generally used by casinos.
Zen Count – A 2 level balanced card counting system popularized by author Arnold Snyder in his book, Blackbelt in Blackjack.